By John Rice
Thanksgiving is more than gathering with family and friends to stuff our faces. It's also about sharing our bounty with those in need. The employees of Ferrara Pan Candy Co. get it. Their employee resource group, Ferrara Women Who Lead (FWWL) spearheaded a coat and candy drive for community schools. They gave Garfield School 40 coats and several cases of candy.
Emily Berman, social worker at Garfield, first learned of the donation in late September, when she received an email from Aurora Garcia, a member of FWWL's Community Outreach Committee. Berman volunteered to be the point person for District 91 and distribute coats to students in need. On Nov. 14, Veronica Moreno and Elena Aliaga, from Ferrara's Forest Park facility, dropped off the donations.
As a result, Berman's office is filled with winter coats. Most are brand-new with the price tag still attached. They range in size from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. There are even a few middle-school-sized coats. They come in a variety of styles and colors, for boys and girls. Berman has already met with social workers from other District 91 schools to identify families in need. She's also going to touch base with teachers. Berman is urging parents to reach out to the schools if their kids are in need of coats. She is grateful for the coats and candy and all that Ferrara does for the schools.
Garfield Principal Jamie Stauder echoed these sentiments. "I think it's wonderful when the schools can collaborate with businesses in Forest Park," Stauder said. "There are many families that need our help during the holiday season."
The candy company is also setting a wonderful example for the students. Employees donated $1,340 in cash to purchase 102 winter coats. (The company picked up the tab for the candy.)
Garfield students are taking Ferrara's generosity to heart and sharing their own bounty. Starting Nov. 26, they are decorating the school's Tree of Warmth with hats, gloves and scarves. In past years, the students hung so many "ornaments" that very little green was visible. The winter gear will be distributed to needy families in town through the Community Center.
That's not all. This week, Garfield will be collecting canned goods and other non-perishable food items for the Forest Park Food Pantry. The program is called "The Gracious Grizzlies Give." The pantry is suggesting that items like peanut butter, canned meats and pasta be donated. Talk about paying it forward.
Ferrara's donation was both welcome and unexpected. If it weren't for the FWWL group, it may not have happened. The group prides itself on building a network of "strong dynamic women, who lead, support and grow individually and as an organization." Groups like these are essential "for any company that hopes to build a thoughtful, inclusive culture for its employees." This is the first year they fulfilled their mission by donating coats.
Sharing our bounty is big. It's even bigger than the Bears playing the Lions. Whether we're volunteering, donating, or simply setting an extra plate for a stranger, we're emulating what the Pilgrims and Wampanoag did in the fall of 1621. Except their feast lasted for three days. Didn't they have Black Friday back then?
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com